Young v General Medical Council [2021] EWHC 534 (Admin)

In this case, Prof Young appealed a decision by a GMC registrar to reverse a decision of an Assistant Registrar that allegations should not proceed any further.

On 14 November 2018 an Assistant Registrar (“AR1”) of the General Medical Council decided that allegations against the Claimant, Professor Ian Young, relating to his conduct in 2004 and 2006 should not proceed any further by virtue of rule 4(5) of the General Medical Council (Fitness to Practise) Rules 2004 (SI 2004 No 2608). Subsequently, another Assistant Registrar (“AR2”), acting under rule 12 of the 2004 Rules, reviewed that determination and, by letters dated 9 January and 23 March 2020, substituted a fresh decision, this time that the allegations should proceed.

Prof Young sought a judicial review of the decision made by AR2, contending that the power to review under rule 12 was not engaged, alternatively, that if it was, the power was exercised unlawfully.

On 5 February 2018 the Claimant self-referred to the GMC following publication on 31 January 2018 of the Report by Mr. Justice O’Hara on “The Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths” (“the Report”). That Inquiry had been established in December 2004 under the chairmanship of John O’Hara QC (as he then was) to examine the events surrounding and following the deaths of a number of children in hospitals in Northern Ireland. The allegations considered by the GMC are based upon findings in the Report.

AR1’s overall conclusions were set out as follows:-

“In my view, important factors here include the low continuing risk to public safety and the issues concerning the availability of evidence meaning it may not be possible for the doctor to have a just and fair inquiry into the allegations. While the allegations are serious, I am not convinced that the specific concerns highlighted are so grave that the public interest requires the allegation to proceed, solely based on the factor of gravity alone. This needs to be strongly weighed against the other issues raised.

The “material flaws” identified by AR2 in relation to AR1’s assessment related to AR1’s assessment of the gravity of the allegations, the way in which AR1 treated the reasons for the delay in raising allegation with the GMC and AR1’s assessment of “public interest”.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Holgate concluded that: “there is no legal basis upon which the court could possibly interfere with the decisions of AR2.”